Book Review: A Gift for Murder by Jenny Twist

It is always an absolute delight for me to read a new novel by my wonderful friend from across the pond, the indomitable Jenny Twist, and A Gift For Murder: A Tommy Ross Mystery was no exception. In fact, I think this possibly her best work to date.

I was so fortunate to be granted an advance look at this stellar murder-mystery, and I simply could not put it down. While weaving a carefully considered trail of clues from discovery through investigation, and building an ensemble of relatable, empathetic characters anyone might enjoy meeting in a pub for a pint one day, Ms. Twist treats the reader to an intimate glimpse of the Oxford and Cambridge communities in the mid-1990s. With its balanced narrative encompassing the characters’ personal stories, professional lives, and the search for a mysterious killer, A Gift for Murder promises to be the perfect summer read for fans of Sherlock, Hot Fuzz, Castle, and Brooklyn 99.

Synopsis: Joshua found the girl shivering in the stream, clutching a severed hand.
Horrific as that was, it was not the worst thing.
The worst thing was the nightmares.
The monster was coming. It was coming through the corn. Every night it came closer.
And it was coming to kill. 
For PC Tommy Ross this was his first murder case. And he had no idea how to solve it. How do you find a killer when you can’t even find the body?


My Review: Once again, the brilliant Jenny Twist has created a piece that showcases her incredible skills of plot and character development. Drawing on her experiences in Oxford and Cambridge, and her particular talent for slow-building horror, A Gift for Murder leaves no detail overlooked. I was simply floored by this novel and the mystery within — it was a compelling, fast-paced, delightful yet dark read of lifelike characters and their poignant stories. For each of the characters in the ensemble of protagonists, Twist communicates a real sense of “There, but for the Grace of God, go I”. A Gift for Murder pulled me in and kept me guessing, right to the thrilling end.


A Gift for Murder: A Tommy Ross Mystery is now available through all Amazon sites.

Book Review: A Little Vice in Paradise by Gretchen Rose

So much time has passed since I last posted a book review . . . about time to start again! And how lovely to do so with this enticing read by my new friend, Gretchen Rose.

It was my sincere pleasure to be asked to provide a review for the back cover of this wonderful story. I thoroughly enjoyed how Gretchen Rose introduces us to the steamy world of Vero Beach. A Little Vice in Paradise is a perfect choice for vacation or staycation reading.

Synopsis: It is 2008, Florida’s housing market has tanked, and Andrea Nelson is terrified. A single parent, she’s been juggling the balls in the air for so long, somehow managing to pay all the bills—but now? With no foreseeable source of income, how will she afford her daughter’s pricey school for the developmentally challenged and fund her mother’s upkeep in the familial enclave that is falling into ruin? Andrea has but one prospective client, the mysterious tycoon, Daniel Armstrong, and he is proving difficult; none of the luxury properties she shows him meet with his requirements. Desperate to sell a property, she shows him Casa Rio, her mother’s oceanfront estate, and he falls in love with it. Heartbroken at the thought of having to relinquish Casa, Andrea begins the process of letting go. Little does she know she has more to fear, that a maniac is stalking her daughter.


My Review: This is no ordinary story — this is deliciously complex narrative combining relatable characters, beautifully detailed settings, and the continuance of hope and strength to carry on when the world seems dark. A Little Vice in Paradise was clearly crafted with love. Ms. Rose gave me moments of beauty that left me with tears in my eyes. Perfect for fans of Sex and the City or Gilmore Girls, this novel is a delightful read for lovers of romance and intrigue.


A Little Vice in Paradise is available through the publisher, Melange Books, as well as on Amazon (Kindle and Paperback), Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and Kobo Books.

#TBT an amazing review

Good reviews really help bad days, especially when energy is low (not enough spoons) and the world is terrible. So here is one that, when I re-read it, definitely gives me a much-needed boost — RoloPolo Book Blog’s 2014 review of Blood and Fire: Book Two of the Talbot Trilogy:

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Rating: 5/5 stars

Bloody. Crappin’. Hell. Tori L. Ridgewood pulls no punches with round two of The Talbot Trilogy and, in fact, she comes out swinging with some serious action, some serious character development and, one really exciting read. In all, Blood and Fire is a totally character-driven read that is complimented by an ever-evolving plot that is both intricate and interesting. Since you know how much I love characters, I’m going to hit you with a heavy dose of character analysis. Here we go . . . .

Andrea: still among the evil undead but there may be some hope for her. After some really ugly moments, Andrea seems to be one of the few vampires who is actually interested in fighting her new evil nature. Is there hope for her??

Charlotte: Whew!! After realizing her worst fear – the return of de Sade – Charlotte gets all kinds of angry and realizes that she and Rayvin have the ability to bring down the Big Bad. Charlotte really comes into her own in this installment and it is good to see her overcoming her fear and taking control.

Grant: not dead, not a vampire, still totally hot, newly wolfie and, totally embarrassed by having run away from Rayvin. Grant is on a mission and once he learns how to control his new shape shifting abilities he turns his anger and self-loathing toward revenge. de Sade is going down and Rayvin will be rescued.

Jason: still among the evil undead, still missing an eye and, more evil than ever before. Jason is a nasty, nasty vampire with all kinds of plans for total domination. To take over the world he has to build an army that is loyal to none other than Jason and take out de Sade. Jason is just crazy enough to think he can pull this off and he brings Hell with him in his attempt to take over the world. By far, one of the most loathsome characters dreamt up by Ridgewood.

Marcy: welcome to the fight you lovely, lovely woody creature. Marcy is an incredible fighter with the ability to cover her body with bark and branches; she can literally root herself to a position and use her branches to stake vampires at will. She has a smart mouth, a beautiful and totally capable partner and, a serious obsession with bringing down de Sade.

Rayvin: one totally pissed off, magic is on the fritz, knocked up witch!! If you thought Rayvin was mad at the end of book one, wait until you see her now. Essentially, de Sade rapes her on a regular basis, she can’t fight back thanks to a nasty little device de Sade implanted in her neck and, she has lost the one man she ever truly loved, Grant. But, there is no give in or give up in Rayvin and at every turn she does her best to combat de Sade and his evil minions.

de Sade: still the Big Bad and still bat-sh*t crazy with delusions of grandeur thrown in for funsies. de Sade is convinced he can sire a master race of hybrid vampire/witches and through them, he will rule the world. For the first time in his more than 300 years of “life” de Sade is making progress toward his ultimate goal. Though Charlotte is his ideal mate de Sade has settled for Rayvin. He is convincingly crazy, determined to the point of blindness and, indiscriminately cruel.

Siobhan: a GARGOYLE!!!!! Tori L. Ridgewood, you gave me a GARGOYLE!!!! Siobhan is badass, she is totally dedicated to Marcy and, she is wicked awesome in a fight. In her human form she is slight, sexy and totally consumed with her appearance. When she transforms she is tons of fun and she can fly. Though Siobhan seems a bit flighty (HA!) she is just as dedicated as Marcy to taking down de Sade.

Solomon: a snarky recluse who also happens to be an extremely accomplished wolf. Solomon is responsible for training Grant and though he is quite hesitant to leave his home he is also committed to helping Grant and his daughter. Not gonna give that secret away 🙂

As you might have guessed this ragtag group of humans, witches and supernatural eventually come together to put a serious whoop ass on de Sade and his gang of evil undead. The plan is beyond crazy and by the time everyone comes together they are facing more than just de Sade. Jason is on the rise and his army is bound and determined to please him and when the smoke finally clears not everyone is still standing and the allegiances that have been formed had my head spinning.

The Bottom Line: I am so damn pleased with this read! Blood and Fire shows no signs of slowing down and Tori L. Ridgewood has come to play!! This book starts off fast and doesn’t let up until the very end. New and exciting characters are introduced, the older characters are believably evolving and, the plot is thickening with each turn of the virtual page. Loyalties are tested and strengthened, love is challenged and, the strength (both emotional and physical) of all is put to the ultimate test. Ridgewood is a polished writer who puts out well-written, finely edited books that have a tendency to just drag you right on in and not let you go until the very end. I promise you, you won’t care about being sucked in and will probably be pissy about the end of the read 🙂 I am putting it out there right now, The Talbot Trilogy is shaping up to be one of my all-time favorites and something I feel comfortable labelling as a highly recommended read.

Link to the original review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/981129180?book_show_action=false

Buy Links: Blood and Fire is available from Melange Books in PDF, on KindleKoboNookSmashwords, and in paperback!

It’s been a Hump Day . . .

Where I am on this little blue rock, the sun rose on -40 C weather. January is a rough month, and Wednesdays are tough.

So let’s finish it off with some heat! A little tease from my favourite of the Talbot Trilogy, Blood and Fire, to wrap up Wednesday. . .

Buy Links: Blood and Fire is available from Melange Books in PDF, on KindleKoboNookSmashwords, and in paperback!

Kate’s Encounter is LIVE!

It’s short. It’s explicit. It’s creepy.

And it’s now available for download. 😀

Kate Elliot was warned not to stay alone in the Dark Lake North Museum after sunset. But she had a deadline to meet, and she knew ghosts weren’t real. So who — or what — is she encountering when the lights go out?

“‘Even a big tough firefighter?’ I teased, tugging at the fasteners on his coat.
‘Even a big tough fireman,’ he emphasized, kissing me.”

Kate’s Encounter is the exciting, chilling opening chapter in The Dark Lake Chronicles, a modern ghost story / urban fantasy / paranormal romance connecting to the steamy, highly praised Talbot Trilogy.


On a personal note . . . after a couple of emotional, difficult days, it feel so great to have put some refreshed, spicy, spooky words into the world again.

Next up will be drafting, revising, editing, and self-publishing Chapter Two: Coming for Kate, as well as continuing to promote the Talbot Trilogy — some of my favourite characters will be joining Kate from that series as her experiences get scarier. And . . . erm . . . hotter. <<insert smiling devil face>>

Okay, I’m just going to do it:

Here’s that link again!

Let’s Go Dewey Decimal!

As I wait for feedback from friends and beta readers on the revised, renewed version of the short story “Telltale Signs”, I’m contemplating using some spoons to tackle reorganizing my library.

Not all of these books are mine. A handful belong to my partner.

I’ve seen the pictures of books arranged by colour-coding (haven’t tried it), size (done that), and flipped around for a neutral look (are you kidding me??) . . .

Of course, reorganizing bookshelves also means cleaning up the stuff that’s collected in front of them . . .

I need the Dewey.

I need to know where to find what I’m looking for.

No more mixing fiction and non!

Aaaand at some point I need to replace certain bookshelves that were inexpensive and are therefore a bit weak . . .

Or arrange it so the bendy thin shelves are supported in the middle by taller volumes?

I am on the verge.

But I worry that if I pull all the books into a central space to sort them, that will take my available energy and then that is where they will remain . . .

And then there is regular / ongoing household kitchen mess.

And the pile of clean laundry needing sorting/folding/putting away/hanging up.

And forms to be filled out for stuff.

And another short read to draft.

And my daughter’s blanket to work on.

And 12:30 pm appointment to walk to.

In -30 C.

Now I’m contemplating rolling dice to see what I will do.

Theoretically just working on something from the list, 20 minutes max, monitoring my energy levels, is better than nothing. Incremental steps toward goal completion, etc.

What if I just search for and move around certain books from a specific genre?

Aaand now I am tired.

What would YOU do?

The Talbot Trilogy Universe is expanding!

Once upon a time, I wrote a short story for the Spellbound 2011 anthology. It was called “Telltale Signs”, and was the tale of young assistant curator Kate Elliott encountering the supernatural in the Dark Lake North Museum.

Spellbound 2011 ceased publication in 2017. Kate and her wonderful boyfriend Harley have been waiting patiently in my files ever since.

Now their story is taking on new life — or an afterlife — with a fresh title, some tweaks to the narrative, and a few other revisions to really round it out and connect it firmly to the adventures of Rayvin, Grant, Charlotte, Pike, Marcy, and Siobhan, only an hour and a half south in Talbot during the events of Crystal and Wand.

Updates on this renewed short read will be posted soon!

A vampire’s seduction . . .

He was dancing with her. 

She’d put on Charlotte’s golden ankh before leaving the house, the better not to lose it again, but whatever power it had held seemed to fade. It tinkled impotently against her silver pentacle as the vampire swept her in a circle and dipped her into a graceful arc over his leg. 

“You are so beautiful,” he cooed, his lips close to her ear. When he spoke in complete sentences, his accent was more pronounced, though she couldn’t place it beyond something Eastern European. She tilted her head back, trying to escape the smell of his breath. “Andrea will be so pleased you came to visit. We have much in common, you know, you and I. We can reach into the mind of another . . . touch the energy pulsing in a body . . . we’re very special.” 

Her heart was racing. He chuckled, moving his fingers to feel her pulse. Her arm twitched in response. The vampire ran his fingers, the nails filed now, along her skin. “I don’t need to feel, my darling. I can hear the rush of your blood quite clearly. But I enjoy the pleasures of the skin.” She felt cold lips on the sensitive skin inside her elbow and cried out, weakly. 

Rayvin was dizzy, falling. Her legs wouldn’t support her. 

He lowered her to the floor, gently, and ran his hand down her body. “Yes,” he whispered, his mouth close to her neck. “Andrea will be most pleased. Jason, too.” 

He left her side, and suddenly the room was brilliant with light, hurting her eyes. 

Author’s note: In this scene, our heroine Rayvin has arrived at the home of her best friend, Andrea, deeply worried about her welfare after some frighting visions — only to discover an unexpected houseguest. The character of the ruthless, malevolent, sexy vampire Malcolm de Sade was inspired by the performance of Goran Visnjic in Practical Magic (1998) and Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing (2004).

Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy is available in print-on-demand, pdf, or as an e-book through these and other retailers:

Melange Books: https://melange-books.com/authors/torilridgewood/windandshadow.html

Lulu Bookstore: https://www.lulu.com/en/ca/shop/tori-l-ridgewood/wind-and-shadow-the-talbot-series-book-1/paperback/product-14m8qz7m.html?page=1&pageSize=4

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/340100

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DYCH64Y/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i4

Staring at the saddle . . .

. . . warming up the pen

(or keyboard, actually…)

Dear blog, I didn’t forget about you.

Lovely readers, I didn’t forget about you, either.

But I did procrastinate. Spent a lot of time on parenting and passion projects — moved my family into a new house in winter 2018, completed a Professional Master of Education graduate degree in spring of that 2019, and until spring of 2020, I dedicated a lot of off-hours as a volunteer focused on refurbishing and re-opening the LaSalle Theatre. Throughout all of this, I was also battling personal challenges: generalized anxiety and a major depressive disorder that have plagued me since adolescence.

Some days, periods, years have been better. I joked about going into an existential professional crisis about my career as an educator after earning the PME. However, after noting the start of physical symptoms in late summer 2019, and having to go on medical leave in June 2020 — which turned into a long-term disability leave in February 2021 — and having done months and months of therapy, rest, daily walks in the spring and summer (it’s been too cold and difficult to walk on the snowy streets for me to get outside daily in the winter), medical appointments, rest, CBT, changes in my medication, and more rest, I am able to articulate the thought I’d always had about keeping busy and involved as a means of avoiding a confrontation with my mental illness / invisible disability and its accompanying chronic fatigue. If I kept busy with my passion projects, and active at work, it helped to keep the dark clouds at bay and made being tired all the time something of a logical byproduct. Sometimes. But the longer I avoided dealing with the problem, the more my resilience wore down. I now have a much better understanding of Bilbo’s metaphor of feeling thin, spread over too much.

Did the pandemic push me into my breakdown? Or was it always coming? Sometimes I think it was overdue, and I’d put it off months or even years after it should have started.

With all of this in mind, writing fresh fiction has not happened for me since 2017. And I really miss it. Plus between the day job, the volunteer work, and then being ill, I’ve lost the thread or beat of regularly promoting my published works. It’s time for that to change.

I’m not back in the saddle — not yet — but it’s in front of me. A bit battered, but not without some polish.

Oh, and my household now includes a cat. A third bearded dragon. Did I mention the second snake? And we are fostering a turtle for a friend who had a house fire. Plus we also have two guinea pigs.

I am moving forward. Expect to see some short reads this year, as my energy allows (at some point I’ll talk about how understanding spoon theory has helped me) and some brand refreshing (is that the right term?) for the Talbot Trilogy, my debut novel series. Best wishes and warmest regards as we journey further into 2022!

And please enjoy these pictures of the majority of our (my) menagerie! I have not included the snakes, out of consideration for those who are less comfortable with slithering creatures.

Overwhelming TBR List! (updated August 1, 2016)

You know how your eyes can be be bigger than your stomach? I get like that with books. I have so many on my to-be-read list that I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, not sure where to start. And there’s a difference between my list of TBR on Goodreads, which includes books I don’t yet have in my possession, and the ones I have available to me now. So I’m going to list them alphabetically (by title), and by location, and make a start…

On my Kindle (app):

Aftereffects: Zombie Therapy (From the Case Files of Dr. Victor Frenzel, Zombie Psychiatrist), by Zane Bradey – DONE!
And That’s Why I’m Single, by Josh Stern – DONE!
The Aristotelian, by Steve Poling – DONE!
As the Witch Turns (An All About Women Short Story), by Anne M. Cinarpenter – DONE!
Audrey’s Guide for Witchcraft, by Jody Gehrsan – DONE!
Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, edited by Rayne Hall – DONE!
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation, by Ian Hall DONE!
Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost (Book 1), by Ron Vitale DONE!
Crow’s Hill: The Dark Seeds, by L. M. Fields
Curious Hearts, with James M. Cricket, Walt Trizna, T.D. Jones, Jane Carver, Ellen Margret, Nell Duvall, and Jenny Twist
Dark Inside, by Donna Galanti
Dead Rich, by T. H. Rahman
Eleven Town, by John-Paul Cleary
The Eleventh Universe, by Jim Fostino
Entanglement, by Dan Rix
Faeries Forever, by Ellen Margret
The Girl from Yesterday, by David L. Dawson
Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults, by Jack Eason
Hearts in Exile, by Mysti Parker DONE!
Hellbound, by Su Halfwerk
I am GooGol, by Bobby Nash and Rodrigo de Castro — DONE!
Journey to Rome, by L.K. Killian
Labyrinthine, by Ruby
Life in Mental Chains: My terrifying journey with OCD, by Ruth J. Hartman
Lightpoints, by Peter Kassan – DONE!
The Last Mailman: Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Zombies, by Kevin J. Burke
Level Zero, by Jaron Lee Knuth
Lonely Moon, by Andrew Saxsma
Mercy, by Jay R.
Midnight’s Jewel, by J. Annas Walker
My Only One, by Gregory M. Thompson
The Noble Fool (Vol. 1 of The Hungering Saga), by Heath Pfaff

The Owl Goddess, by Jenny Twist — DONE!
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, by Paulette Mahurin
Plague Nation, by Dana Fredsti – DONE!
The Prelude (The Musical Interlude #1), by KaSonndra Leigh – DONE!
The Rebel Trilogy by F. H. Prohor – DONE!
Rescued by a Duke, by Ruth J. Hartman – DONE!
Risking Everything: Coming Out in Coffee Land, by Elizabeth Worley
The Seventh Age, by Jack Eason
The Sovereign Order of Monte Cristo: And the Newly Discovered Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Holy Ghost Writer
Take One at Bedtime, by Jenny Twist –in progress
Taxicab Stands of Kirkland Lake, by Scott Hough – in progress
Through the Door, by Jodi McIsaac – DONE!

TransShifter, by Cindy Borgne
The Twelve Dancing Zombie-Killing Princesses, by Cate Masters
The Vampire Bible, by William Meikle
When Women Were Warriors (Book 1: The Warrior’s Path), by Catherine M. Wilson
Witches Bureau of Investigation, by Richard Capwell
Witch Eyes, by Scott Tracey

On my Kobo:*

Clockwise, by Elle Strauss –
Llewellyn’s 2013 Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living
The Thirteenth Unicorn, by W. D. Newman
The Witching Pen (Book One of The Witching Pen Novellas), by Dianna Hardy

*Not counting 57 PREVIEWS!

Print Copies*:

Assholes: A Theoryin progress

Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies, by Victoria Dunne — DONE!

Be Blessed: Daily Devotions for Busy Wiccans and Pagans, by Denise Dumars
Coffee in the Morning, by Roz Denny Fox

Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Garriger — DONE!
Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World by Kathleen Ragan
The Girlfriend Curse, by Valerie Frankel
Hannah: Daughters of the Sea, by Kathryn Lasky – DONE!
The King’s Daughter, by Barbara Kyle
A Human Element, by Donna Galanti – DONE!
Much Ado About Marriage, by Karen Hawkins
Need, by Carrie Jones
Super-parenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach for Raising Your Distracted Child, by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and Peter S. Jensen, M.D.

A Time for Everything, by Mysti Parker – DONE!
UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities by John B. Alexander, Ph.D.
A Vintage Affair, by Isabel Wolff

The Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe — DONE!
A Witch’s 10 Commandments: Magickal Guidelines for Everyday Life, by Marian Singer – in progress

*I’ve accumulated more print copies of books since I first compiled this list, of course, so I’ll add them as I read them. 😀

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I’ll post reviews on Goodreads, etc. as I complete them, of course. And if anyone has read these as well, please comment below — I’d love to know what you thought of them!

The question bothering me now is — how long will it take me to read all of these fabulous writings? Hmmm…

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Book Review: The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

Short review originally posted on Goodreads:

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so glad to find this book while browsing — I remembered this story in the news, and being fascinated. Finkel’s finely articulated and well-researched exploration of Knight’s choices, his experiences and the repercussions, helped to answer many questions I had, and raised others.


View all my reviews

Synopsis:

Many people dream of escaping modern life. Most will never act on it–but in 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight did just that when he left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another person for the next twenty-seven years.

Drawing on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel shows how Knight lived in a tent in a secluded encampment, developing ingenious ways to store provisions and stave off frostbite during the winters. A former alarm technician, he stealthily broke into nearby cottages for food, books, and supplies, taking only what he needed but sowing unease in a community plagued by his mysterious burglaries. Since returning to the world, he has faced unique challenges–and compelled us to reexamine our assumptions about what makes a good life. By turns riveting and thought-provoking, The Stranger in the Woods gives us a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way.

Further Thoughts . . .

One of the reasons I found myself connecting deeply to this story is that at one point, growing up, I was labelled a hermit by kids my own age.

My family had moved to a hamlet called Honeywood twenty minutes outside the farming community of Shelburne, several hours away from the place where I’d started my adolescence, Haileybury.

I was okay with changing where we lived again, to keep up with my father’s promotions. Moving was an adventure, a chance to start over and have a new place to arrange things. When I was ten, I’d contemplated moving to a new place as an opportunity to reinvent myself, just a little, but that didn’t really happen.

And then I unintentionally became, at least for a few months, and in the eyes of others my age, a hermit.

My impression at the time, upon arrival, was that Honeywood was tiny. Just a handful of houses on a crossroads in Dufferin County. (It’s still an agricultural area now, and Honeywood is still classified as a hamlet.)

It was all very flat, the cluster of ten to fifteen homes surrounded by farm fields and few trees. It had one corner / general store, sitting adjacent to our house.

It was through that store and its small VHS section that I watched The Princess Bride for the first time.

I was thirteen, and we were unpacking in a large, old rental home that had, at various times, been a farm house and a bank. I loved the layout of our new house, but not the location of the bathroom — the original structure had not included indoor facilities. A single washroom had been built some time in the mid-20th century over the furthest corner of a later addition, a sunroom / breakfast nook off the kitchen that led to a sunken rec room we ended up using as storage. The shower and toilet were above that rec room. Having to journey from my bedroom on the second floor and at the front of the house, through the whole building, to pee, etc., may have added to an awkwardness that I hadn’t experienced before in a move.

In our previous town, I’d gotten used to biking around to various points of interest and services, like local parks, the library, the stores that had candy, old graveyards, trails in the woods, and we’d been fortunate that Haileybury was built on the shores of Lake Timiskaming — it had a beautiful beach with a waterslide, as well as a marina. Honeywood had two straight roads bisecting neatly ploughed and planted rows of corn, and that corner store. Was the arena already there when we moved in? If so, I didn’t go see it, because I don’t recall it at all.


After we’d unpacked the truck and gotten more settled, I did try taking my bike down the stretch of Line 2 West that ended in a stop sign in front of my house. But my bike had a problem with one pedal, so I couldn’t ride very well, pumping with just one leg. And the terrain rose after a certain distance. If I went any further, cresting a rise and descending toward a copse of woods, I knew I’d not be able to see my house at all. That was too far for my comfort level, so I turned the bike around and went home.

I believe that short-lived bike ride came in part as a result of overhearing the local kids calling me a hermit. Was it a matter of days, weeks, or a month post-possession of the property? I don’t recall the length of time. I remember taking my time to unpack my things, deciding on the position of my bed and my dresser, side table and shelves, while my older brother was content to leave much of his things in their boxes, using his free time to get out and about, engaging with those same local kids and following them on his bike to find the hang out spots and trails only they knew of.

I remember, one day, looking out my partially-open window as I fiddled with my books and knick knacks, seeing the little gathering of adolescents on bicycles either waiting for or chatting with my brother, and hearing them talk about me. About why I never came out of the house. One or two glanced up and made eye contact with me. I backed away, and was careful when I looked outside again, for a long time after that.

Contentment was in my nest, away from prying eyes and the process of having to get to know other kids all over again. I missed what routine I’d had before, but as long as I had my books, my journals, and my hobbies, I was okay. When I wasn’t in school, I tried learning magic tricks, arranged and rearranged my collections of miniature figurines and furniture, listened to the radio, and wrote letters to the friends I’d left behind. Eventually I got up the courage to cross to the corner store for penny candy or popsicles, the occasional magazine or Archie comic, and to rent movies. But I didn’t make any friends in Honeywood. Not even through a few babysitting jobs with families just a house or two down the road.

I was good with not making friends, at the time. I missed having some companionship, but sharing company can lead to conflict and unhappiness. Being by myself was simpler. Easier. Peaceful.

So when I read The Stranger in the Woods, I found much of Christopher Knight’s rationale for backing out of the world (as recorded by Michael Finkel) to be deeply relatable. I’m one of those who found the 2020 lockdown to be a relief rather than a stress, giving me a good reason or allowance to close off from personal contact with others than my immediate household.

But I’m not a true hermit, though the under-15 set of Honeywood in 1990 would disagree. I think what that experience helped to me to understand is that I’m less of a country person and more of an urban creature. I don’t know that I could exist comfortably in a rural isolation, at least, not without my library and my hobbies. My preference is to be within reasonable walking proximity to stores, parks, and services, especially now that I no longer drive. Yet I’m comfortable being on my own, going for long periods without talking to or interacting with others. Can true hermits exist within urban areas? It’s an interesting question, but I suspect, likely not.

I found that reading this book — this accounting of one individual’s experience in extended withdrawal from society, how he survived and coped and thought — gave me much to reflect on. There is a lot to unpack, especially regarding the nature of community and its requirements for membership. The price that is paid by those who feel uncomfortable being actively part of society, but have little choice other than continuing to interact. What it means when leadership rejects those individuals’ desires to be left alone, requesting and expecting and enforcing involvement, seeing community involvement on even the most basic level as a necessary component of being human. The moment when Christopher Knight was in court after completing his required rehabilitation and probation program, visibly surrendering as the judge declared that he had officially succeeded in re-entering community life, was deeply affecting for me. I’ll be reading this book again. And I sincerely hope that Mr. Knight is okay. If Michael Finkel ever sees this, thank you for sharing his story in such a sensitive and thorough way.

The Ethan Hawke Configuration

I don’t know what it means. But I know it is happening.

Lately, I have experiencing a series of Ethan Hawke connections. Is this a matter of gestalt? Is there something to be gleaned or interpreted from the pattern of his performances? If so, then is there a meaning from just the performances I’ve listed below, or should I embark on an odyssey of watching everything Ethan Hawke has ever done, in order to find a more complete answer?

It started with watching Marvel’s Moon Knight, (which I *LOVED* and keep watching over and over for reasons I could discuss in another blog post), in which he plays the antagonist Arthur Harrow, and then “My Sharona” turned up on a playlist so I had to show my sixteen-year-old the song’s connection to the 1994 film Reality Bites (younger Ethan Hawk plus Winona Ryder), then a few weeks later we watched Stranger Things Season 4 (more Winona Ryder — love her!) and his daughter with Uma Thurman, Maya Hawke, plays Robin Buckley — tempting me to watch Gattaca again — but THEN the show referenced (IMHO) a scene from Explorers (1985) with an even younger Ethan Hawke, and THEN Stranger Things included “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush (1985), which flipped me right back to Daybreakers (2009), a vampire flick I greatly enjoy but haven’t seen in a long time, which featured Placebo’s cover of that song AND includes among its stars — you guessed it — Ethan Hawke.

Is the universe trying to say something? Is it the year of Ethan Hawke?? What does it all mean???

Probably nothing. Just the way my brain functions. But if you find yourself connecting dots between seemingly random things, between texts (literary, film, other media), and wondering what they all mean, please comment below! Let’s commiserate!

Righteous feelings

That’s what fuels so much of action — that belief, supported by experience and knowledge provided by others’ experiences, that what one is doing is the correct moral and ethical choice.

And I’ve wrestled with whether to say anything. Do I wade into this debate? There’s an inherent risk involved with adding my voice to the discourse. (Gosh, there’s a word I haven’t used since university . . .) My significant other has refrained from sharing his opinion on social media, feeling that it’s a waste of energy.

But to me, not contributing to the conversation suggests passive support rather than impassive neutrality. If I don’t say anything, I could be letting things stand and avoiding the problems of getting involved. Then the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel come back into my head:

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

“Elie Wiesel Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2022. 28 January 2022. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/elie_wiesel_163854

Feelings have been running high this week in Canada, what with a little less than 10% of the nation’s licensed truckers and their supporters heading to the national capital in a convoy of big rigs and personal vehicles to protest / insist on / lay siege to the federal government so vaccine mandates will be repealed, even though the pandemic isn’t over yet and health care workers, long-term care workers, essential workers, educators, and other valued contributors to the well-being and function of our society are burning out and have been running on empty for months or longer. Lots of social media posts proclaiming patriots are taking Canada back (from whom?) and denigrating the federal government leadership (again) and exaggerating the numbers of attendees (some of whom have vowed violence if their demands are not met).

Some, out of respect for free speech (actually called “Freedom of Expression” under Section 2b[b] of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), are willing to overlook the fact that organizers and participants in the movement are white supremacists, demonstrably racist, have incited and/or participated in violence against People of the Global Majority (otherwise known as BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), in service of a greater perceived need: that of taking back their interpretation of freedom.

I find it interesting that we haven’t heard the participants acknowledge that they have already crossed hundreds and thousands of kilometres to get to Ottawa without meeting military resistance . . . without having to show papers at checkpoints . . . and maybe that’s part of their point — maybe some of them are worried about the act of proving vaccine status during a pandemic escalating into more authoritarian curtailing of movement in various ways.

It bothers me that the devotees of this freedom movement have not taken the steps to weed out those concerning individuals and groups (possibly because they need the money [American Republicans have been involved in funding this uprising, yes] and hey, numbers are numbers), that they haven’t bothered to clarify the numbers involved with clear tags or signage (is it because it’s more effective to keep people guessing and exaggerating participation?), and for heaven’s sakes, they haven’t even bothered to get the permits for their protest this weekend on Parliament Hill!

It seems to me that the participants are less interested in improving governance, and more focused on a) forgetting / ignoring that the pandemic is still happening, and b) setting in motion some kind of anarchy instead of upholding a respectable social contract.

The TruckerConvoytoOttawa claims to speak for me. They do not.

I have a voice. I’m using it.

I have family that has advised me to avoid controversial topics online. I’m not.

The participants in the convoy are deeply convinced that they are on the side of righteousness and determined to make changes that they believe will make the country better. But when you take their arguments apart, they don’t hold water.

I’m seeing people — groups and individuals — who have been and are continuing to experience extended levels of stress and uncertainty, connected to the pandemic but also to changes in global society at various levels. The world has altered, and it’s frightening to many. Wanting a return to some kind of recognizable “normalcy” and a more familiar (though unbalanced) power dynamic is a logical psychological response. The patience needed for coping and working through has run thin. Perhaps what we’re seeing is the process of grief for what was known being carried to extreme measures. Certainly we’re seeing the effects of cognitive dissonance and the Dunning-Kruger Effect, on full and painful display.

Patience and compassion can get us far. But how far, when intolerance becomes louder than kindness? Pretends to be kindness? Recalls symbols of oppression and evil and attempts to repurpose them in the guise of higher goals and social improvement?

The convoy participants claim to be uniting Canadian society, and suggest that news media and government officials are only seeking more division. I would argue that they are uniting certain factions, bringing together those who are scared and tired and in need of purpose, who may be lacking in certain levels of education and affected by intergenerational traumas — these are the same kinds of victims/survivors preyed on by leaders of other terrorist organizations convinced that they are in the right and seeking change by force.

So here is my voice. I feel for the participants of the convoy, how lost and afraid and in turmoil they must feel in order to take such drastic action to feel in control again. But they don’t speak for me. I don’t support their actions, though they are within their rights to some extent according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I fervently hope that no-one gets hurt or worse in the national capital over the coming days.

Thank you for listening. Stay safe.